Maple-Glazed Chicken ♥ with Easy Skillet Creamed Carrots & Onions

Maple-Glazed Chicken with Easy Skillet Creamed Carrots & Onions, another Quick Supper ♥, with a touch of rosemary. Low Carb.
No more mid-winter supper blues, I've got you covered. Chances are good, you've got everything it takes to make this tonight. So simple! Oven-baked chicken with a maple syrup and rosemary glaze, served alongside carrots and onion cooked together in a skillet. So good! Low Carb and Weight Watchers, you'll love a hearty dinner for just 6 points.

Culinary archeology, that's my new hobby obsession, slowly paging through old issues of Gourmet magazine. Back in December, I started with a stack of Januarys, oldest to newest, looking for easy dinner ideas, wondering if, some 25 years later, the recipes would still appeal.

First up, Gourmet January 1992. The ads collectively profile Gourmet's target readers, a snapshot of a heady time: expensive watches; hotels and travel destinations; wines and liquor; plus one financial service ad with the unfortunate headline, "The unfortunate burden of making money". Gail Zweigenthal's name and face were familiar but required a quick Google search: she preceded Ruth Reichl as editor. The 1992 issue featured Hearty One Pot Dinners, Yosemite in Winter, also collections of rice and hot chocolate recipes. The monthly menu marked the Quincentennial Celebration, 1492 - 1992: it strikes me that in 2016, less than a generation later, this would be deemed culturally insensitive, at best? It was a thrill to find a piece by Barbara Kafka, who'd just lowered her cooktop and butcher block to fit her 5-foot-2 frame. A wave of sadness hit when a Laurie Colwin column appeared, homey boiled beef, yes, another unfortunate word choice but still, Laurie Colwin.

But enough of the culinary artifacts. Did dinner emerge from those pages? Yes! It sure did, and a good one for that very night since the ingredient list was short, all pantry ingredients. The chicken? Excellent. The carrots? Dreamy good! They're so very much like "creamed" carrots but without all the fuss of cooking a white sauce.

QUICK SUPPERS So what's with the chicken, Alanna? First, a Note to Vegetarians. Second, I'm making good on a 2015 promise to deliver more Quick Supper recipes. Some will be vegetarian, others will include animal protein. Remember, from Day One way back in 2005, A Veggie Venture has been the food blog about vegetables, mostly but not exclusively vegetarian or vegan.

Egyptian Kamut Salad ♥ with Roasted Carrot & Pomegranate

Egyptian Kamut Salad, another Meatless Monday recipe ♥, a whole-grain salad with roasted carrots, kale, dried fruit and walnuts, rained with pomegranate. Vegan.
A hearty main dish salad to celebrate Christmas Day in Egypt, that's January 7th according to the Julian calendar followed by Egyptian Coptic Christians. The whole-grain salad starts with the ancient grain called "kamut" [pronounced ka-mutt, rhymes with a mixed-breed dog, not a moot point], a chewy, nutty grain. From there? Gorgeous roasted carrots and some kale for color plus a basketful of Middle Eastern fruits, dates, apricots and pomegranate, all drizzled with pomegranate molasses. Not just vegan, "Vegan Done Real".

"We'll never eat all this," my head-talk worried. I'd just spent three hours in the kitchen concocting a massive whole-grain salad. The labor of my love sat on the counter before me on a white oval platter, a splendid pile of kamut, roasted carrots and kale plus more fruity jewels than a binge of Bejeweled. So beautiful! But my salad had formidable competition. I'd made it for the annual Christmas feast for some foodie friends here in St. Louis, our dinner theme that night was an "Egyptian Coptic Christmas". Call me surprised – shocked even – when all but a small portion disappeared in a flash. The next day I sampled the leftover salad on its own, without all the competition. Swoon ... beauty with soul!

It's a hearty salad to celebrate the Coptic Christmas Day today, that's January 7th. After the traditional 43 days of fasting before Christmas? Even better. This salad is definitely a feast food, a festival of color and texture and flavor. It would also be good for a special Meatless Monday. This salad has a few moving parts, the kamut, the carrots, the onion, the kale and all the fruit. But in the end? Totally worth it. [Still curious? Read more about the Coptic Christian tradition here, WhyChristmas.]

WHAT IS KAMUT? Kamut is the brand name for an "ancient grain" wheat called Khorosan – the kernels are twice as big and contain more protein. The texture is meaty, the taste nutty. Two years ago, it was nowhere to be found in St. Louis but is part of the wonderful product lineup from Bob's Red Mill. But if you can't find kamut, a good substitute would be the Italian grain called farro. Barley would also be a good substitute, so would buckwheat. (For my fellow Word Dancers. A brand name for a food, really? You know, like Kleenex is to tissue. Or Parmigiano Reggiano for genuine parmesan cheese.)

Best Everyday Vegetable Recipes of 2015 from A Veggie Venture

Best Vegetable Recipes for Everyday 2015 ♥ Want to eat more vegetables? Find new ideas and inspiration in this special year-end collection of everyday recipes for vegetable lovers. Many vegetarian, vegan, low-carb, paleo and Weight Watchers friendly recipes.
A Veggie Venture's Best Recipes from 2015, just one per month, all in one handy spot for easy reference, all "everyday vegetable recipes" to make again and again.

I'm going out on a limb this year. For the first time ever, A Veggie Venture's "Best Recipes" of 2015 are not the most clicked, pinned, shared or even the most liked recipes.

Forget popularity. I'm standing up usefulness!

So this collection of recipes are the most every-day recipes, special in their very every-day-ness, recipes destined to be made and remade so often they'll fast lose recipe status and become "just a little something you whipped up."

Truth is? I've personally made all but two of these recipes more than once, three many times, seven of the twelve many-many-many times. And I wasn't "recipe testing". I was just putting breakfast on the table. Or making lunch. Or a salad. In my kitchen? Those are the best recipes of all, the ones you pull out every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the Best Everyday Vegetable Recipes. I hope one or two or three or even more will find a home in your kitchen too.

Anddddd ... because social media is oh-so-fun, I've already added each of these recipes to a Pinterest board called My Best Recipes – extra-easy for re-pinning! I will add recipes from prior years too, way back to 2002!

So okay, here you go, the Best Recipes of 2015. Which ones have your name on them? Let everyone know in the comments!

Cabbage & Pepper Chakchoukah ♥ aka OogaChaka Eggs

Cabbage & Pepper Chakchoukah aka Ooga-Chaka Eggs, another healthy breakfast ♥ A savory make-ahead vegetable stew, perfect for nesting runny eggs. Low Carb. For Weight Watchers, just PointsPlus 3.
Today's healthy breakfast recipe: Say hello to "Chakchoukah" – a savory Tunisian stew, perfect for nesting runny eggs. Low Carb. For Weight Watchers, just PointsPlus 3. Totally satisfying!

So stop me now, wouldja please? My fingers may haltingly tap out the unfamiliar combination of letters for Chakchoukah but what my brain insists on spilling out is that 1970s ear worm of a song, Ooga-chaka Ooga-chaka.

OogaChaka Eggs, how's that? It's got a ring, right? But that would ignore the North African roots of this dish, what I called Shakshuka (Eggs Nested in Summer Vegetables) when I first fell for baking eggs in tomato-y skillets. Call these eggs what you like but do, yes, make them one day this week because heaven knows, we need an antidote for the sugar, butter, cream and wine consumed in the last week. I so love it when Christmas falls on the weekend – Monday's return to healthy food is such a relief! But if I'm not really-really careful, though? It's the week between Christmas and New Year's when it's way-way easy to let your guard down.

Clean eating? It deserves its own earworm.

Christmas Tree Vegetable Platter ♥

Christmas Tree Vegetable Platter ♥, use your favorite raw and blanched vegetables and creativity then wait for the compliments!
graphic button small size size 10 So festive, this entirely edible vegetable platter in the shape of a Christmas tree! graphic button small size size 10

Everyone remember Kayla's Thanksgiving Vegetable Platter? Not to be outdone last year, Kayla's big sister Niki came home for Christmas break and designed a Christmas Vegetable Platter – Christmas Crudités, haha! Everyone oo'd and ah'd. Such creativity, these girls!

Over the next few weeks, many of us will be both host and guest. A Christmas Vegetable Platter is a gift to all! This tree is so simple and uses only familiar, easy-to-find and inexpensive fresh vegetables. Go ahead, let your holiday imagination run wild!

Christmas Cauliflower ♥

Christmas Cauliflower ♥, healthy and pretty for the holidays but concept works year round. Low Carb. Vegan. Weight Watchers friendly.
Healthy roasted cauliflower with ribbons of festive red and green for the holidays – and all year-round too. Low Carb. Very friendly/adaptable for Gluten Free, Whole30 and Paleo. Not just vegan, "Vegan Done Real".

Say hello to the holiday season's most welcome side dish, a healthy vegetable dish for holiday potlucks, buffets and family dinners, a field of snowy cauliflower adorned with vegetable versions of boughs of evergreen and red berries. Because who else has noticed? People really do watch for healthy choices and gobble them up! The first time I made Christmas Cauliflower, I followed this lovely recipe from Kalyn's Kitchen for my annual cookie swap brunch last year, an antidote to butter-sugar-flour. So good! Will definitely make it that way again. Olives!!

But once Christmas was over? This cauliflower stamped its white feet and insisted on being made again, unsatisfied with relegation to a few weeks in December. In summer, I paired the barely roasted cauliflower with tiny tomatoes, tomatillos and a mix of fresh herbs all from our garden. A few days later, it was more tiny tomatoes (they pop!) with fresh tarragon. Funny story. When I served Christmas Cauliflower for a family dinner in July, one of the wise six-year old twins corrected me. "That's cray-zee. It's not Christmas!" But he also got the joke!

And now, for the umpteenth time? I added thin strips of red and green peppers, the year's seasonal cycle has returned to its roots, a festive healthy side dish for the Christmas season. Cauliflower that looks like a Christmas tree? Yeah, that's Christmas Cauliflower! But just like the "reason for the season" ... Christmas Cauliflower lives year-round.

The Concepts:
Roasted Cauliflower – a large head cut into quite small florets, roasted on its own for 30 minutes to give it a welcome head start.
"Something Red & Green" – your choice of vegetables, roasted for just 15 minutes, taking the edge off the rawness.
"Something Salty" – capers and olives work, so do tiny cubes of parmesan or a scattering of feta crumbles or even bacon bites or bits of good salami, say.
"Something Fresh & Herby" – your choice, parsley and cilantro are obvious choices but especially during summer, try oregano, rosemary, basil, etc.
"The Finish" – a sprinkle of lemon juice plus something for texture contrast, Kalyn used pine nuts (pricey but wonderful!) and I've used everything from toasted almonds to toasted quinoa to um, well, nothing.

Crazy-Smooth Crazy-Good Hummus ♥

Crazy-Smooth Crazy-Good Hummus ♥, simple hummus, perfected with three special techniques. Vegan and lower-fat.
An old-but-new quick appetizer, a homemade hummus that's perfect for a light holiday appetizer with a few veggies but also, of course, for year round. I use three special techniques that yield an extraordinary hummus – even without added oil. Not just vegan, "Vegan Done Real".

I've made plattersful of hummus over the years, always with canned chickpeas. But once I discovered an easy cooking technique that tenderizes the chickpea skins, creating an ultra-smooth, ultra-rich (but lower-calorie) hummus, it became a kitchen staple. The fridge rarely is without a batch of hummus!

Jerusalem Chickpeas, dried chickpeas cooked especially for hummus.
Long runs in the food processor, one or two ingredients at a time.
Using water, not oil, to finish the hummus – and while we don't mind skipping all those calories, we do this for taste and texture, first. The taste of the chickpeas really comes through!

IDEAS FOR A MEZE PLATTER Even for just the two of us, some times for dinner I'll put out a big platter filled with small servings of simple Middle Eastern-style foods. It's called meze [pronounced MEZ-zay], the Arabic tradition of gathering small plates on a large communal platter. It's a convivial way to eat, a small bite here, a morsel of conversation there, a sip of wine along the way. For a party, a small meze of two or three small, light appetizers is a welcome way to help guests stave off hunger until dinner moves to the table. Here are some ideas, I didn't realize I already had so many in my recipe collection!

Olives from the olive bar or Olivada, an olive paste
Roasted Roma Tomatoes or strips of roasted pepper
A few pickles or cucumber slices
Roasted Eggplant “Hummus" (Eggplant & Chickpea Dip & Spread) or Baba Ganoush, another eggplant spread
Toasted almonds
Fattoush (Traditional Middle Eastern Salad)
Fresh warm pita, cut in triangles
More Ideas for a Meze from The Kitchn